Tracking Down Roofing Issues

How To Prevent Four Of The Most Common Commercial Roofing Problems

Commercial roofs are made from tough materials intended to withstand years of wear and tear. But like all roofs, commercial roofs do sometimes fail or develop problems. Most of these problems are preventable if you just know what actions to take! So, here's a look at four of the most common commercial roofing problems and how building owners and maintenance officials can prevent them.

Problem #1: Tenting and Billowing Roofs

This happens sometimes with membrane-type roofs like EPDM. The outer layer of a roof is essentially a sheet of the protective material. If the edge becomes loosened, the roofing membrane starts billowing or tenting up whenever wind catches under the edge of it.

Billowing can be prevented by ensuring you have your roofing membrane installed be a knowledgeable, experienced roofing company. They will be sure to adhere the edges of the material carefully -- something that might be overlooked by a less-experienced roofer. If you ever see any of the edges of the roofing membrane beginning to separate or loosen, give your roof company a call ASAP. They can come "tack" the edge of the membrane down before it starts billowing extensively.

Problem #2: Ponding Water

There should never be any ponds or puddles of water on your flat commercial roof. Water accumulation of this type can degrade the roofing membrane over time, making leaks more likely. You can prevent ponding water by making sure your roof's drainage system is kept clean. Scoop clogging material out of drains and gutters several times per year. If you notice any debris on the roof, make sure it gets swept down. Debris can interfere with the flow of water off the roof, encouraging it to form puddles.

If your roof keeps developing ponds or puddles, it may not be "pitched" properly. Your roofing company may need to come build up certain areas of the roof to encourage it to drain better.

Problem #3: Penetrations

Penetrations are small holes that are made in the roofing membrane. They eventually lead to leaks, which can lead to water damage to your insulation and to the upper floors of your building. To prevent penetrations, always make sure that anyone who walks on the roof wears soft, rubber shoes. If any branches fall on the roof, ensure that they are lifted off the roof, rather than dragged, since they may catch in the roofing membrane and tear it as they are dragged across it. 

Problem #4: Shrinking Membranes

It's not uncommon for a roofing membrane to shrink after it is applied. It starts off as being the same size as the roof's base, but within a few months, it has contracted and thus lifted away from the edges of the roof. Its edges may even be curled or torn as a result.

The best way to prevent this issue is, once again, to hire a contractor who has a lot of experience working with the type of roofing membrane they're applying. You should double check with them to ensure the type of membrane they have chosen is suitable for your climate. (Using some types of membranes in overly warm areas can cause shrinkage.) Ask to see examples of roofs that they applied several years ago, and verify that those roofs still seem to be in good shape. Once the roof is in place, there's not much you can do to keep it from shrinking if it is indeed the wrong material or improperly sized.

If you can prevent ponding water, penetrations, shrinking, and billowing, you should be well on your way towards having a long-lasting, problem-free commercial roof.